Erik Sondhy

He’s off to Russia next week, and in a second chat with Jazz pianist Erik Sondhy, we ask about his early influences in music and how he got started. It would seem his grandmother had quite a part in that, but let’s start from the beginning….
Erik. I’m from Mengwi, Bali. Music came to me from my grandmother. She sang in the church choir and she asked me to learn piano or guitar so I could accompany her while she practiced singing at home. My parents divorced when I was young so I lived with my grandmother since I was five years old. I also played music in the church until I finished high school.
TB. So your grandmother had a great influence on your music career?
My grandmother had a great voice and she was really into God. She was a Christian and a great believer. She was very active in the church and really loved music. She sang gospel music in the church but really loved classical and jazz. She even sang in front of our first president Soekarno one time. She’s the only one in the family who really supported me with my musical ambitions and she had a long life until 90 years old, passing away in 2010.
So what happened after your time with the choir, when did you start playing piano and performing? And why piano?
First I learnt guitar and then piano… I just felt that the piano was my instrument.
When was your first performance on stage?
When I was in high school. I played and sang for the school graduation show when I was 15 years old.
So when did you begin to become a professional musician?
When I was 18 years old. I played the keyboards and sang covers alone at a hotel called Prawita Cottage Kuta.
When and how did you get into playing jazz professionally?
In Bandung, later. I was back at my grandmother’s place and 21 years old. A pianist in Bandung asked me to replace her playing jazz in a hotel there.
What was the early defining moment? The moment you decided music was your future?
When I entered a jazz band competition in Jakarta and I won first price. That was in 1999 and was the moment I began calling myself a jazz pianist.
So what happened after that?
I moved to Bali full time and have basically stayed until now. I was 23 years old then. I joined Jiwa Band with Rio Sidik and the boys and we played around the traps.
How was the jazz scene in Bali when you came back in 1999?
It was pretty good. When I arrived back the jazz scene in Bali began getting better and better but there weren’t many jazz musicians back then.
Where did you play?
Jazz Bar and Grill Sanur and Jazz Cafe Ubud. Later Ryoshi came along which lifted the game.
Russian tourists seem to be big fans of jazz in Bali.
They’ve been coming in great numbers since around six years ago.
Have they had much influence on the jazz scene?
They really love jazz. They love all good music.
Are there any playing music here?
There are some, but not many.
You are off to play in Russia soon, how did that come about?
Some guests from Russia saw me play at Ryoshi and they invited me there to see their country and play some shows. They seemed to like my style of jazz and playing.
Where are you going to play?
Moscow and St Petersburg. It’s an eight day week tour and there are two shows orgainised.
What are you expecting from the visit?
Hopefully they will love me more and I can make them all happy. I’m hoping in the future, I can do more and more shows there and have more and more fans from Russia.
When do you go?
24 August until 1st September.
You can catch Erik Sondhy paying regularly at Ryoshi Monday/Tuesdays, Saturday at El Kabron, Wednesday at Joglo Candidasa and Thursdays at The Beat Cafe.

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